“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” – Jack Welch
In this day and age, I think very few leaders want their employees to perform their duties like mindless drones as opposed to the thoughtful, innovative people that they are. Scores of leadership articles and books tout the strategies of team collaboration and employee empowerment, declaring the age of “command and control” to be over.
But even so, many leaders continue to micromanage, and fail to really empower people to think innovatively, try new things, and do their jobs with excellence. This disconnect between what is preached and what is practiced may not be intentional, but it is real.
So why do so many leaders fail to empower those they lead? I believe many leaders do not fully understand what it means to empower people, and unfortunately, they may also fear “giving away” some of their power to others. But that’s not really what empowerment is about.
Empowering others isn’t about abdicating any of your own power or responsibility as a leader, but rather it’s about giving those you lead the opportunity to leverage their talents and use their own skills and common sense to influence decisions, add value, and make a difference.
But empowering employees isn’t easy. In an article for Forbes.com, contributor Lisa Quast notes that empowering employees “requires that a company and their management be committed to continuous employee development. It means fostering an environment of trust and helping employees learn from successes and analyze failures.”
Inspirational leaders understand that in order to truly empower others, they must first help them grow. Facilitating the growth of those you lead includes things like equipping them beyond the essentials required to do their job, giving frequent, consistent, and honest feedback, building and valuing their confidence as much as their competence, and preparing them for future opportunities. In the next couple of weeks we will look closer at how to empower those you lead by facilitating their growth.
[This article is excerpted and adapted from Chapter 14 of my book, Be An Inspirational Leader]